Time: 1: 01 p.m.

Line: Steelers by 10 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Bengals 3-10; Steelers 5-8.

Outlook: The Bengals have won only two games, and one was against Pittsburgh, back on Oct. 11 in Cincinnati, a 25-20 victory. Carl Pickens collected 204 receiving yards in that game and scored the game-winning touchdown on a tricky Bengals call with 20 seconds left. No such magic this time. Pittsburgh is struggling mightily on offense but finds a cure in the Bengals. This is the game in which Steelers QB Kordell Stewart rolls again, RB Jerome Bettis busts through the defense, LB Jason Gildon adds to his team-high sack total and Pittsburgh, for a game at least, feels good about itself again.

Notable: Steelers offense has not scored a TD since the third quarter vs. Detroit in Week 13.


BENGALS: Doubtful: T Rod Jones (triceps-quadriceps). Questionable: TE Steve Bush (neck); RB Corey Dillon (back-hip); WR James Hundon (ankle); LB Jimmy Sprotte (hamstring). Probable: LB Steve Foley (ankle).

STEELERS: Doubtful: RB Fred McAfee (knee). Questionable: WR Courtney Hawkins (knee); DE Kevin Henry (ankle). Probable: LB Carlos Emmons (ankle); RB Richard Huntley (hand).


Time: 1: 01 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: 49ers by 7.

Vs. spread: 49ers 5-9; Patriots 6-6.

Outlook: This is a huge game for New England. If the Patriots lose, their playoff chances will be hurt immeasurably. And now they must play without Drew Bledsoe, who'll be replaced by former Maryland QB Scott Zolak. Who knows how the Patriots will respond? How Zolak will respond? The 49ers will blitz Zolak from every angle. He is big but not extra mobile. New England is fuming after losing at St. Louis last week. This is a game it must win with defense, so look for CB Ty Law and the Patriots' defense to answer.

Notable: 49ers QB Steve Young needs 385 yards passing for his second career 4,000-yard season.


49ERS: Out: S Zack Bronson (hamstring); CB Marquez Pope (ankle). Questionable: CB Darnell Walker (thigh). Probable: DE Roy Barker (knee); C Chris Dalman (elbow); DE Chris Doleman (pectoral); S Merton Hanks (Achilles); CB R.W. McQuarters (ankle); S Lance Schulters (knee).

PATRIOTS: Out: QB Drew Bledsoe (finger); WR Terry Glenn (ankle). Questionable: RB Tony Carter (ankle); G Heath Irwin (ankle); DE Willie McGinest (groin); DT Mark Wheeler (knee). Probable: RB Chris Floyd (ankle).


Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Falcons by 6 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Falcons 10-4; Lions 5-9.

Outlook: Falcons coach Dan Reeves is recuperating from heart surgery, so Rich Brooks, his offensive coordinator, will call the shots. But Reeves' players will be there and that is plenty. The Falcons need 46 points for 426, which would match their club season record set in 1981. RB Jamal Anderson has 10 100-yard rushing games and will earn his 11th against a shoddy Lions defense. The Lions lost, 35-13, at San Francisco on Monday night. The nation saw what they were: a team with many holes, especially along the defensive line and at linebacker, and a club that continues to waste the talents of RB Barry Sanders.

Notable: Falcons have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in their past 22 games.


FALCONS: Questionable: DE Lester Archambeau (thumb); LB Cornelius Bennett (knee); CB Randy Fuller (shoulder). Probable: WR Tim Dwight (knee); DT Travis Hall (foot); C Robbie Tobeck (calf).

LIONS: Doubtful: LB Stephen Boyd (shoulder); WR Germane Crowell (shoulder); DT Henry Thomas (groin). Questionable: QB Charlie Batch (back); DT Darius Holland (ankle); C Jim Pyne (neck). Probable: S Mark Carrier (foot); DT Marc Spindler (shoulder).


Time: 1: 01 p.m., Ch. 9.

Line: Giants by 1 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Chiefs 6-8; Giants 6-8.

Outlook: The Chiefs beat Dallas and the Giants beat Denver last week, so both enter on high notes in seasons that have been busts. Both teams won their divisions last year but now see tougher times. Maybe the worst is over for both. They could settle in and play a hard-nosed game full of big hits and physical runs. The Chiefs have the edge in yards gained, in fewer yards allowed and in turnover differential (plus-6 to minus-3). But the momentum should swing the Giants' way, playing at home.

Notable: This is the Giants' 1,000th regular-season game. They are 529-437-33.


CHIEFS: Out: DE Pellom McDaniels (ankle); TE Ted Popson (head); G-T Pete Swanson (abdomen). Doubtful: CB Dale Carter (arm). Questionable: WR Kevin Lockett (ankle); G-T Glenn Parker (knee); LB Jerott Willard (hamstring). Probable: DT Tom Barndt (shoulder); QB Rich Gannon (knee); LB Derrick Thomas (groin).

GIANTS: Out: WR David Patten (knee-IR). Doubtful: DT Robert Harris (calf); WR Joe Jurevicius (knee); G Ron Stone (calf); RB Tyrone Wheatley (hip). Probable: WR Chris Calloway (knee); C ++ Derek Engler (ankle); DE Michael Strahan (shoulder).


Time: 1: 01 p.m.

Line: Packers by 6 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Oilers 7-5; Packers 5-7.

Outlook: The Packers' game begins and ends with QB Brett Favre, the three-time MVP who is three short of another 30-TD passing season; it would be his fifth straight. This season, however, he also has 21 interceptions, and his supporting cast is not as strong as in the past two years. The Oilers look at this game as a supreme test in their quest for respect and for the playoffs. Favre is the present, but Oilers QB Steve McNair is the future. And this is the type of matchup that makes McNair and the young Oilers look special.

Notable: Oilers are 5-2 on the road and look to match their franchise-best mark of 6-2 in 1996.


OILERS: Doubtful: S Marcus Robertson (appendectomy). Questionable: WR Willie Davis (shoulder); P Craig Hentrich (groin); DE Kenny Holmes (ankle-foot); QB Steve McNair (toe); S Perry Phenix (shoulder); DE James Roberson (ankle); CB Samari Rolle (ankle-hamstring); CB Denard Walker (ankle).

PACKERS: Out: C Frank Winters (leg-IR). Doubtful: WR Corey Bradford (hamstring). Questionable: WR Robert Brooks (hamstring); TE Tyrone Davis (hamstring); DE Vonnie Holliday (ankle); LB Lamont Hollinquest (knee); RB Darick Holmes (shoulder); WR Derrick Mayes (knee); CB Craig Newsome (knee); G Marco Rivera (knee); LB Jude Waddy (shoulder).


Time: 4: 05 p.m.

Line: Chargers by 3.

Vs. spread: Raiders 6-8; Chargers 4-7.

Outlook: The Raiders have sunk since losing QB Jeff George. One reason is that they ran their offense as if George was still there, instead of turning games over to energetic RB Napoleon Kaufman. He has 217 carries this season. Jamal Anderson of Atlanta has 362. Eddie George of Tennessee has 319. Even rookie Fred Taylor of Jacksonville has more, 220, and he hasn't even been a starter the entire season. The visiting team in this matchup has won four of the last five meetings and nine of the last 12. Look for the tough San Diego defense to buck the trend.

Notable: Kaufman needs 79 rushing yards to become third Raider with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.


RAIDERS: Out: S Eric Turner (foot). Doubtful: DT Grady Jackson (shoulder). Questionable: QB Jeff George (groin); RB Napoleon Kaufman (groin); CB Marquis Walker (elbow). Probable: S Albert Lewis (concussion); S Anthony Newman (toe); RB Harvey Williams (hip).

CHARGERS: Out: LB Lew Bush (knee); RB Natrone Means (foot). Questionable: TE John Burke (shoulder); CB Terrance Shaw (knee). Probable: LS David Binn (shoulder); LB Kurt Gouveia (hand); S Rodney Harrison (ankle); CB Scott Turner (hamstring).


Time: 4: 15 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: Cowboys by 10 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Eagles 6-6; Cowboys 7-6.

Outlook: The Cowboys have slipped to only a one-game lead over Arizona with two to play, and their final two games are against divisional foes (Eagles and Redskins) who know them well. Since Koy Detmer became the Eagles' starting quarterback, Philadelphia has averaged 16.7 points in three games; before that, it averaged 8.4 points. And did you know that the superb Eagles LB William Thomas is the only player in the league with at least a sack and an interception in each of the last seven seasons? Detmer on offense and Thomas on defense give the Eagles a chance, albeit slim.

Notable: Cowboys have not won a December game since the NFC wild-card game in 1996.


EAGLES: Questionable: DE Hugh Douglas (groin); DE Al Wallace (knee). Probable: T Richard Cooper (eye); DT Brandon Whiting (knee); S Michael Zordich (ankle).

COWBOYS: Doubtful: TE David LaFleur (knee). Questionable: DE Greg Ellis (finger); WR Michael Irvin (back); CB Deion Sanders (toe); CB Kevin Smith (back); RB Chris Warren (groin). Probable: RB Emmitt Smith (ankle); LB Fred Stickland (knee); T Erik Williams (knee).

ST. LOUIS (4-10) AT CAROLINA (2-12)

Time: 1: 01 p.m.

Line: Panthers by 3.

Vs. spread: Rams 5-9; Panthers 5-7.

Outlook: The Rams upset New England and now feature QB Steve Bono. He replaced the injured Tony Banks (knee), who suffered through a torturous season in which he was asked to do so much with so little around him and responded accordingly. The Panthers cannot wait to get this season completed. Kevin Greene leads them in sacks with 14. He almost added another when he nearly leveled an assistant on the sideline last week. Greene apologized. The entire Panthers team needs to apologize for making fans suffer through this mess of a year.

Notable: Panthers are 0-8 when their opponent scores first.


RAMS: Out: QB Tony Banks (knee-IR). Questionable: DE Jeff Robinson (kidney). Probable: LB Jon Hesse (hamstring); RB Amp Lee (knee); CB Dexter McCleon (ankle).

PANTHERS: Out: G Corbin Lacina (knee); NT Tim Morabito (knee); DT Jason Peter (neck). Doubtful: CB Juran Bolden (ankle); TE Wesley Walls (foot). Questionable: WR Raghib Ismail (knee). Probable: WR Michael Bates (leg); G Matt Campbell (leg); T Norberto Davidds-Garrido (knee); LB Greg Lloyd (shoulder); LB Tarek Saleh (neck); C Bryan Stoltenberg (knee); LB Kinnon Tatum (hamstring).


Time: 4: 05 p.m.

Line: Seahawks by 7.

Vs. spread: Colts 6-8; Seahawks 7-5.

Outlook: Seldom is a player on a 3-11 team rewarded, but Marshall Faulk was. He leads the Colts in rushing yards (1,228) and in receiving (78 catches for 862 yards) and was deservedly awarded with Pro Bowl honors. Peyton Manning, the Colts' rookie QB, has taken all 865 snaps this season, and that says a lot. Manning is tough and talented his rookie-record 24 TD passes attest to that -- and the Colts have a foundation on which to build over the next couple of seasons. Seattle, however, is a team that was supposed to have already built its foundation. It is one of the biggest underachievers in recent years.

Notable: Seahawks are second in the NFL with 23 interceptions.


COLTS: Out: LB Andre Royal (knee). Doubtful: RB Keith Elias (ankle). Questionable: T Adam Meadows (shoulder). Probable: CB Jeff Burris (ankle); T Tarik Glenn (chest); RB Scott Greene (ankle); Chris Hetherington (groin); DT Ellis Johnson (shoulder); DE Kendel Shello (back); WR Torrance Small (neck).

SEAHAWKS: Out: TE Itula Mili (knee). Doubtful: S Mark Collins (shoulder); DT Dan Saleaumua (hamstring). Questionable: DE Michael Sinclair (neck); LB Dean Wells (knee); CB Willie Williams (foot).


Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Cardinals by 3 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Saints 9-5; Cardinals 5-8.

Outlook: You never know which Saints team will show up -- the one that obliterated the Cowboys two weeks ago, or the one that got trounced by the Falcons last week. Nothing comes easy for the Cardinals, who don't always win the ones they're supposed to or the ones they need to. The Cardinals need to win to stay alive in the playoff hunt; they haven't been to the postseason in 16 years. The Saints have yet to win a game on grass this season in three tries. Can the Cardinals' offensive line handle the Saints' defensive front? Doubtful.

Notable: Saints defense has scored a club-record eight TDs and 54 points this season.


SAINTS: Out: S Je'Rod Cherry (ankle). Doubtful: TE Tony Johnson (groin). Questionable: LB Kevin Mitchell (knee); TE Scott Slutzker (elbow). Probable: WR Sean Dawkins (groin); WR Qadry Ismail (abdomen); DT Wayne Martin (knee); LB Keith Mitchell (groin); RB Wilmont Perry (ankle).

CARDINALS: Doubtful: CB Tom Knight (leg); DT Mark Smith (ankle). Questionable: G Matt Joyce (hand); LB Ronald McKinnon (knee); RB Michael Pittman (hand). Probable: G Lester Holmes (shoulder); CB Ty Howard (shoulder); DE Simeon Rice (rib).


Time: 8: 15 p.m., ESPN.

Line: Vikings by 13 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Jaguars 7-6; Vikings 9-4.

Outlook: Randall Cunningham has a 107.2 QB rating. Robert Smith is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Minnesota is averaging nearly 400 yards of offense a game. Randy Moss leads the NFL in receiving yards (1,209).The Vikings are on pace to score 549 points, which would break the league record of 541 set by Washington in 1983. John Randle leads the Vikings' defense with 8.5 sacks. Minnesota is rolling. In come the Jaguars. If QB Mark Brunell were healthy and could play, the Jaguars would make it fun. Without him, the Vikings will make it ugly.

Notable: Jaguars have lost six of their past eight against the NFC.


JAGUARS: Out: RB Tavian Banks (foot); S Donovin Darius (hip); QB Jamie Martin (knee-IR); S Tawambi Settles (knee-IR). Doubtful: QB Mark Brunell (ankle). Questionable: CB Aaron Beasley (knee); OL Todd Fordham (thumb); RB Daimon Shelton (ankle). Probable: DT John Jurkovic (thumb); TE Pete Mitchell (knee); T Leon Searcy (thumb); G Rich Tylski (shoulder).

VIKINGS: Out: WR Jake Reed (back). Questionable: TE Greg DeLong (ankle); QB Brad Johnson (thumb). Probable: WR Cris )) Carter (calf); G Randall McDaniel (knee); WR Randy Moss (ankle); T Korey Stringer (groin); WR Chris Walsh (knee).

Pub Date: 12/20/98

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